A return to the past


Posted by BrianBoru at 5/23/2009 7:38 PM EDT

Notre Dame and Yankee Stadium. Immediately, we are reminded of Knute Rockne's famous "Win One for the Gipper" speech in 1928. Though Rockne no longer paces the Notre Dame sideline, the Fighting Irish would like the opportunity to add another chapter to its grand history. And they would like to do it against a rival from their past – Army.

Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, a far better man for the job than his predecessor Kevin White, has expressed an interest in Notre Dame competing against Army in the inaugural college football game played at the new Yankee Stadium. This would make a lot of sense due to the large number of Notre Dame alumni and "subway alumni" in the New York City area. In fact, the term "subway alumni" was first coined to describe the huge Notre Dame fan base in New York City who did not attend Notre Dame.

An outsider might say Notre Dame focuses too much on its past accomplishments and not enough on its vision for the future. Perhaps, they might say, Notre Dame should court a current powerhouse program instead of another service academy. Okay, I might say that, as well. Still, perhaps it is fitting that Notre Dame will square off against Army.

Back in 1913, Notre Dame was trying to establish a national presence when it took on the powerful Army Black Knights at West Point. Few expected what happened next. The Irish, guided by head coach Jesse Harper and led by quarterback Charlie "Gus" Dorais, confounded their counterparts with a dazzling display of passing. It was after that contest, which Notre Dame ended up winning by a count of 35-13, that Notre Dame became Notre Dame.

Years later, in 1928, the Fighting Irish entered Yankee Stadium as decided underdogs versus undefeated Army. It was during halftime when legendary head coach Knute Rockne, a member of the 1913 team which upset the Black Knights, delivered perhaps the most famous speech in sports history: "Win One for the Gipper" – a speech honoring former Notre Dame All American George Gipp, who died of pneumonia in 1920. Rockne's wistful account of Gipp's dying wish helped rally the Irish to an unlikely 12-6 victory on that day.

It should not go unnoticed that Notre Dame playing in Yankee Stadium would be both an acknowledgement of its own tradition as well as a tip of the cap to its landlord, the New York Yankees, and its parallel position atop sport.

With 26 World Series Championships, the Yankees stand alone as Major League Baseball's greatest team ever. Notre Dame, the owner of 11 consensus National Titles, has more championships than any other team in college football history.

The Yanks had "Murderers' Row". The Fighting Irish had "The Four Horsemen".

Names such as Babe Ruth to George Gipp to Lou Gehrig to Angelo Bertelli to Joe DiMaggio to Johnny Lujack to Yogi Berra to Johnny Lattner to Mickey Mantle to Paul Hornung to Roger Maris to John Huarte to Whitey Ford to Terry Hanratty to Thurman Munson to Joe Theismann to Don Mattingly to Joe Montana to Reggie Jackson to Raghib Ismail – and on down the list – conjure images of greatness.

And so it would be fitting to see the most recognizable brand in college sports once again merge with the most recognizable brand in professional sports.

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